Saturday, November 6, 2010

Okay, what's with the new avatars?

If you've come here from the sites I comment on, you may have noticed the one or two new avatars I'm using. The short explanation is that I've noticed the need to be more expressive when commenting, and that I need a break after doing all those projects before working on the ones due next week.

The "Oh, man" avatar

It all started with the two avatars I made to commemorate the rescue in the Chilean mine. The alternate avatar (which I used when I wanted to express disbelief, concern, pleadingness, or thoughtfulness) was the first non-static avatar I made (meaning that it wasn't "one avatar for everything"). When I started the Halloween story, I replaced it with the second panel from that. This resulted in me expanding the use of the "Oh, man" avatar to explanations and other "soft" comments, and now means "well, you see..." rather than "Oh, man".

The "Mwahaha" avatar

Rick Griffin –who draws Housepets!– is writing An Infinitesimally Brief History of the World for NaNoWriMo. The first installment introduces The King of Cats and has him explore an early human settlement. I read it, enjoyed it, and was about to post the standard response of "Oh, I like how you did this and that", but then I realized something.

My avatar is a mouse. I usually don't give this much thought, but when I went to decide whether to use the "normal" avatar or the "oh, man" avatar, the following question struck me: what would a mouse's response be to this? What would a mouse think, especially after reading the following excerpt? Once you've read it, the association with the new avatar should become glaringly obvious.

[The King of the Cats] was baffled all over again as he was taken to the [human] cities where the fishing ships were cast off, and the merchants had their storehouses filled with grain. Again, they also had mice trouble.

“The mice just don’t listen when you talk to them!” the fisherman said, “I tells them, they’re not allowed on the ship! We don’t even have any food for them ’cept our lunches, but they get on them once in a while, ’specially the bigger ones.”

“I have all the latest in pottery technology,” the merchant said, “this model has a weighted lid, but all that does is make the mice work together to get into the storage. It’s maddening sometimes, spending all that work collecting the grain only to have vandals steal it, and they don’t even bother to close the lid when they’re done.”

It seemed to [The King of the Cats] that the human’s system was very susceptible to collapsing for as much work as they put into it. If they had such trouble with small things like mice, what happened if the mice organized?

The "facepalm" avatar

Finally we have the "facepalm" (some would say "face-paw") avatar. It's pretty self-explanatory. It came from the "Mystery advertisement" post preluding Jane's formal introduction. My only worry with it is that by simple virtue of having it, I may be tempted to use it even where my comment doesn't call for it.


  1. It's interesting and effective to have different avatars for different posts. It should be a built-in option for the various avatar services, rather than having to have separate accounts. Too much trouble for me!

  2. Oh, I'm not technically creating new accounts. Sure, Gravatar calls it "add a new e-mail address"; however, the e-mail addresses I'm adding are "<myEmail>+<expression>". What this does is exploit a (feature?) introduced into the e-mail system, basically to allow filtering in the days before filtering. Most (if not all) e-mail servers ignore anything after the plus sign; while most sites don't look twice at it. The result is that when Gravatar asks me to confirm the "new" e-mail, it arrives at my old e-mail, letting me use the two "addresses" as separate without having to register a separate e-mail account.

    I was going to thank the commenters at Housepets! for this in the blog post, but I was in a bit of a rush when I posted it.